MORGANTOWN - Speed has never been much of an issue for Tavon Austin. Forget stopwatches and 40 times. Just line him up one-on-one with someone and watch what happens. Seldom is he beaten.
Now, line him up one-on-one with a defensive football player trying to tackle him and the results are even more amazing. That adds quickness to the equation.
Quarterback Geno Smith brought up the old phone booth analogy when talking about his West Virginia teammate, but took it a step further. "It would be hard even for two guys in a phone booth to tackle him,'' Smith said.
In fact, perhaps the only person not completely impressed with Austin's speed heretofore has been coach Dana Holgorsen. It's not that Holgorsen isn't impressed by Austin's speed, but he never really liked the fact that it took having a football in his hands before he would showcase it.
Apparently that's not a problem anymore.
"He's looking really good. He's moving a lot faster than he did,'' Holgorsen said of the 5-foot-9, 174-pound senior-to-be. "One of the deals that we were talking about him earlier is that he's fast 15 percent of the time, when the ball is in his hands, and not fast when the ball's not in his hands. Now he's playing fast all the time. He looks like a totally different guy, which is obviously exciting.''
Better than last year? A year ago as a junior, Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns. Half of those touchdowns - on 12 catches for 123 yards - came in his most recent game, the 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
And now he's a totally different guy?
"Right now, Tavon is leading this offense. There's no doubt about it,'' said Smith, himself a 4,385-yard, 31-touchdown passer a season ago. "In the Orange Bowl he took it upon himself to be that guy in this offense and now he's just making us go.
"Not to say anything about the rest of our receivers, but he's one of those special guys who can make something happen any time he touches the ball.''